Internet access in China is now more advanced than in many other countries, at least in its major cities. Broadband connections are widely available and cheap, and there is also a wide range of wireless access options available. Wifi access is everywhere in large cities!
If you don’t want to get an internet contract, the simplest way to access the Internet is via dial-up; plug your computer into any phone-jack. In most cities, there are free Internet numbers available, but if you want a quicker connection, you might want to opt for a paid service number, which will add the access charges directly to your phone bill. There is also a wide range of prepaid Internet access cards available, which allow you to dial an access number of the card provider and stay connected until your credit has run out.
Broadband is cheap, and companies are rolling out “broadband wireless fixed access” (BWFA), which allows you to connect to the Internet wherever your mobile phone works.
If you don’t have an Internet connection at home or at your school you might want to use an Internet café to access the web. Unfortunately, most Chinese Internet cafés are rather dingy places, and can be hard to find. Every now and then some cafés get shut down by government censors, but eventually new ones pop up.
Browsing Restrictions and the Great China Firewall
Yes, we know what you’re thinking – how do I access facebook?! Most people know China restricts internet usage, however today much of what the rest of the world can view is also available in China. There are still a few exceptions though – YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook can be less easy to access. Read our blog to find out more about this subject here!
Certain websites are blocked by the government censors because they contain certain keywords. This is all done automatically with sophisticated software that all internet traffic is filtered through.
Bypassing this is actually as simple as downloading a computer program to your computer or laptop. Most users opt to download software that connects them to a VPN (virtual private network). Your internet connection bypasses the censors by tricking them into thinking you are not actually surfing from within China, giving access to all of the websites enjoyed in your home country. It can make an internet connection much slower, but if you disable the VPN while surfing “safe” sites and turn it on only when watching YouTube or posting on Facebook, this should be minimal.
While there are some free VPN services available, you do tend to get what you pay for. There are many options out there, so it’s a case of looking into what is best for you. Software varies in price from $5 – $25 a month, but many companies give good discounts if you subscribe for a full year. ‘Strong VPN’ and ‘12VPN’ are just two examples.
Your current cell phone may provide international roaming services, but keep in mind that roaming can be very expensive. If you just want to have your phone for emergencies, then this is probably OK. But if you’re planning on using your phone a lot we advise you purchase a cheap unlocked mobile phone once you arrive in China.
With an unlocked phone you can simply buy a pre-paid SIM card (often available from shops within the airport, metro stations or nearby hotels at stalls and convenience stores). The cost for a SIM card is anywhere between 100-200rmb and will have minutes already included. You can top-up your minutes buy buying phone cards (available from convenience stores and stalls) in amounts up to 100rmb. Rates are very reasonable and the menu for recharging your phone is available in English and Mandarin.
Yes, all cards in China can be used nationwide, and there is no domestic roaming charge if your card support 3G network.
Phrase for general purchase
I want to buy a…
Wo yao mai yi ge
“Woh yow my ee ghe”
Phrase for asking if something is available
Do you have…
You mei you
“Yoh may yoh”
Cell/ mobile phone
Cell / mobile phone
Adding value to your phone
Cell phone card (to add value/minutes)
chong zhi ka
“chong jih kah”
Phrase for when you want to buy a phone card
I need to top up my phone (add value).
Wo yao chong zhi.
“woh yow chong jih”
If you say the above phrase to the person from whom you are buying your phone card, they might ask you which carrier you’re using: China Mobile or China Unicom?
Yidong huozhe lian tong?
“ee dong huoh jih leeahn tong?”
If you don’t know the answer, tell them or write down the first three digits of your cell phone number (e.g. “136” or “159”) and the seller will know which carrier.
The most obvious place to buy phone cards is a convenience store although they are available from small shops along the street that sell phone cards, long-distance calling cards, etc.
bian li dian
“beeahn lee deeahn”
Phone card denominations
Cell phone cards usually come in denominations of 50rmb or 100rmb. 50 yuan / 100 yuan
wushi yuan (kuai) / yibai yuan (kuai)
“woo shih yooahn (kwye) / ee bye yooahn (kwye)”
五十（50）元 ／ 一百（100） 元
You may have left your charger at home or need a new one: battery charger (cord)
chong dian qi
“chong dee-ahn chee”